Heaven Will Never Be The Same

from a headstone at Mountain View cemetery

Floating in the sea of dates: my birth
date 1943 in relation as related (like
a relative) to this one: 1931—
even my being predated: 1820 by
this one—died 1865; we become the
stories in the ground ignited, the cutting
of symbols into rock above ground
the eye leaping from the numerals on
the left across the dash, the bridge of all
the unknowables: the hand squeezes the
kneelings the kisses the grip of pencils
of shovels of gun butts the waving the punches,
the threading of needles the birds cupped
the carving of burl the turning
of door handles brass or glass the
peeling of apples the warmth inside
gloves, the songs the hands tracing
the heart with no words to know where
we are going—how long? the pointing
toward paradise

And then come to the gentle boy
conceived when I was four
and gone into the ground before
I reach five a modest lamb resting on
the headstone—we were simultaneous
and then the bond of breath was pulled open
and I remained with so many exhalations
coming, beats of heart, his body still
to the struggle: my air in air out blood
traveling like a long boat way out, way
back on the same water route day after
day after day...

The archeology of an ordinary grave

the water, a single drop of rain
surrounded but specific in its circles
traveling wider and wider into a silence
that is born and that too disappears.

Who will remember?

Who will remember?

Will the stones? Do they feel the “Born”
“Left us” some raised some carved into,
the letters are small keys to the chamber
of a world
All of what I’m saying rests on the thin
ice of belief

The archeology of an ordinary grave

With faith a long string unwinds
from the intersections, crossings where
everything curls and straightens is
gently pulled to infinity and the shapes
are shapes under the cloth and from here
I can read it: our times, the names, the thumb
prints of grief

The stones. At last the size is unimportant
not even the view or the huge oaks
that grace some; finally there is a pattern
a faint design: a pinwheel, a string of lights,
something that portions out the land of

our lives

the way we nibble at the beautiful
edge of oblivion.

Stephen Ajay has published two books of poetry: ABRACADABRA and The Whales Are Burning from New Rivers Press. His poems have appeared in numerous literary journals including: The Paris Review, The Progressive, ZYZZYVA, Ploughshares, The New York Quarterly, and The Christian Science Monitor. Ajay has been a writer in residence at the MacDowell Colony, Yaddo and the Djerassi Foundation. He currently teaches in the Graduate Writing program at California College of the Arts in Oakland and San Francisco.